Shakespearean Heroes

Arrowverse 2019/2020 Season: Week 20

Well, we'll keep doing these articles for as long as these shows are updating, but considering that the ArrowverseWhen it was announced that the CW was creating a show based on the Green Arrow, people laughed. The CW? Really? Was it going to be teen-oriented like everything else on the network and be called "Arrow High"? And yet that one show, Arrow has spawned three spin-offs, various related shows and given DC a successful shared universe, the Arrowverse on TV and streaming. recently had its production shut down when most of its shows were only 19 episodes in to their production, more than likely this weekly article will go on hiatus for a while. Shows take some time to produce and even if production were to start back up soon, we'd likely have to take a break regardless.

Still, while the shows are still airing episodes we're going to cover them. And the big coverage is, of course, dedicated to Brandon Routh's exit from Legends of Tomorrow. That's the focus of our article this week, so lets get to it:

Legends of Tomorrow, Season 5, Episode 8: Romeo v Juliet: Dawn of Justness

The Legends are in the hunt for the various parts of the "Loom of Fate", some special McGuffin (Sarah's words) that, once rebuilt, will allow team-member John Constantine the ability to change anyone's past (their fate) as he sees fit. His plan is to save Astra all the pain she went through by completely rewriting her history (neatly tying up a storyline that started all the way back on the NBC Constantine). Each of the pieces was disguised as a ring, and, as per Charley's direction (since she was the Fate that broke apart the wheel and hid it across the multiverse), the first ring is hidden in Merry Ol' England of Shakespeare's era. Unfortunately for the team, while grabbing the ring (and then having a belated bachelor party for Ray), they end up using their powers in front of The Bard and, instead of him writing his classic, "Romeo and Juliet", he writes a superhero themed play, "Romeo v Juliet: Dawn of Justness". Now they have to fix their own mistake.

This episode plays out like a pretty standard Legends of Tomorrow episode, with the team being silly, getting into stupid, low-rent antics, and just generally farting about for an hour while it cracks jokes at everything it can think of. Case in point, the delightful bard at the expense of the DC Extended UniverseStarted as DC Comics' answer to the MCU, the early films in the franchise stumbled out of the gates, often mired in grim-dark storytelling and the rushed need to get this franchise started. Eventually, though, the films began to even out, becoming better as they went along. Still, this franchise has a long way to go before it's true completion for Marvel's universe. (which, remember, is now in multiversal continuity due to "Crisis") with the title of the play, "Romeo v Juliet: Dawn of Justness". The whole episode has the same low-key vibe as the best Legends episodes. This is a hang out show more than a superhero series, and the writers know it.

Honestly, I liked a lot of this episode, silly and low budget as it was. Heck, I didn't even hate the appearance of Shakespeare despite how overused he is in pop culture. Any time a show has time travel as a mechanic it eventually decides to put the Bard into the mix (and, usually, it's a mark that the show is starting to deteriorate in quality -- the Shakespeare Rule, if you will). Here, though, the Bard is just used as a silly back drop for the usual Legends antics as the show at least finds a new angle to approach the character, his history, and his famous works.

As a send off to one of the longest serving characters on the show, though, "Romeo v Juliet: Dawn of Justness" is decidedly lacking. Yes, the show really mines the emotional bond between Ray and hos best friend, Nate, as Ray is leaving the ship to be a married man with his new wife, Nora, while Nate will continue being a Legend, and their scenes together are great. But there's an undercurrent that just doesn't work, and it's because the show plays it up like this is Ray's choice to leave the show when, as per multiple reports, Brandon Routh didn't want to leave the series. Every time his character says, "I'm going to miss this place but this is my choice," I end up thinking, "well, that's some utter bullshit."

Credit to Routh, he's a professional and he acts the shit out of the material he's given. And, hell, I'm sure he took it as best as he could because he knows he could end up with another gig with Warner Bros. down the road (they clearly like the actor at the studio since they brought him in to play the Atom after he'd already played Supes back in Superman Returns). He's taking his lumps now probably with the hope of returning to the show at a later date, or for a movie deal, or something else. I'm honestly hoping he's allowed to play his version of Superman, which is also in multiversal continuity, in a TV special down the road. He's great as Big Blue.

So yeah, I enjoyed much of this episode but as a send-off to Ray it just doesn't work. It's tone deaf. The producers should have realized this and tried to soften the blow more. Or, better, maybe not kick him off the show to begin with? There's a thought.

Supergirl, Season 5, Episode 15: Reality Bites

We go from a show that gets a bit messy in some regards to an episode that's pretty messy in all regards. "Reality Bites" has two separate plot lines that don't connect in any way and while one of them is (capital I) Important, it's hard to say that either of them really work.

Let's begin with the story that doesn't tie into the overarching plot of the season. Dreamer (aka Nia Naal), an out and proud trans-woman who is also a superhero, has a friend who is attacked by a bigot because he sees her Upswipes profile (Tinder, but not), invites her out on a date, and then attacks her. Nia, upset at this and the fact that this is a regular occurrence in her community (trans folk), goes fully vigilante and wants to kill the dude who did this. Supergirl, in the end, has to talk her down so that Nia doesn't do something she'll later regret.

This is a worthy topic to handle and, Supergirl being the politically tinged show that it is, this was the series in the 'verse that was clearly going to tackle it (and not just because it's also the only show in the 'verse that has a trans character, let alone one played by a trans actress). It's good the show highlighted this topic and tried to bring it to the forefront for all the people watching the show. Good on them.

The issue I had with the episode was not in the story but in the writing. This couldn't have been an easy episode to write, and I'll acknowledge that, but the whole delivery of the story turns "Reality Bites" into a "Very Special Episode", the kind of Public Service Announcement story shows used to do all the time back in the 1980s and 1990s, and none of those episodes are beloved by their fan bases. This is a solid story to tell about a marginalized group in American that, indeed, is subject to constant hate and violence, but the show comes at it with a sledgehammer, delivering a sermon, not a story. If the goal was to illuminate the topic and actually get people that might not have cared about trans people to suddenly care about their plight, this wasn't the best delivery.

That said, it's still miles better than the other half of the episode. Here, Supergirl's sister Alex (with the assistance of her girlfriend, Kelly, and Martian Manhunter) is on the case of a missing guy who, apparently, logged into the Obsidian VR system over a week ago and simply vanished from his real life, unseen again after. Alex soon figures out that the guy has been trapped in VR this whole time, so she has to track him down on the Obsidian platform and save him before he gets brain damage from the torture of being stuck in the artificial world. But while on the case she soon realizes that he wasn't just stuck there, he was trapped by a malicious actor, an angry husband that didn't like how the victim was macking on the evil guy's wife in VR. It's... well, it's all kind of dumb, really.

Let's start with the fact that the show still doesn't really understand how to make VR compelling. The best it can do is odd sets dressed up with some green screen, and all the character growth it can give us is, "just concentrate and believe and the VR world will let you control it." SO we just watch a bunch of people staring pensively and then, suddenly, things happen. This is the opposite of thrilling, to be sure.

Hell, I have to credit the show simply for not flat out saying, "watch out because what happens in the VR world will happen in reality. Die there and you die for real." It got close, though, with the whole, "stay in too long with the torture and you'll get brain damage... and die." So, really, it's a low bar and they only barely squeaked under it. And that doesn't even take into account this is now the third, "enter into a VR world to save the day," scenario we've seen from the Arrowverse just this season. It's already tired, guys. Very tired, indeed.

I also have to question how Obsidian was even allowed to go ahead with this VR tech. If the pain the people feel in the VR world is real, and they can, in fact, get brain damage from prolonged exposure, isn't that the kind of think the government would come down on? Like, this seems to violate all kinds of regulations, up and down the chain. Sure, the show could make the case that Leviathan, the evil organization that is somehow supposed to be the big bad this season (when everyone is really just focused on the much more interesting Lex Luthor) could be pulling the strings to get Obsidian off the ground (for... reasons?). I just don't see it. This story didn't work and the whole storyline is really dumb.

I'm sorry, Supergirl, but you can do much better, both as a political show with a message as well as just a thrilling superhero show. Alex deserves better, and so does Dreamer.

Elsewhere in the 'Verse

  • This week Batwoman focused entirely on Alice, with our villain trapped in a basement, reliving her worst nightmares while hopped up on Fear Toxin (remember, ask your doctor if Fear Toxin is right for you). Meanwhile, Kate and her father tried to get Alice's location out of August Cartwright, the evil man that kept her locked in his house for years. This gives us a long flashback about her time there which isn't exactly revelatory even if it does at least shade in some of her torture and how she ended up the way she is. Also, Cartwright found both Alice and her mother on the fateful day they washed up on the river shore, and he killed the mom for... reasons. Kate then kills him and while she's tortured by it, I think it was the right move. Good for her.
  • Honestly, I probably should have done a full review of Batwoman's episode but, clearly, we had other matters above we needed to discuss.
  • The Flash, meanwhile, focused entirely on Nash Wells, the weakest of the various Harrison Wells so far, with a big story about who he used to be (a treasure hunter), why he is the way he is (his adopted daughter died while they were on a treasure hunt), and how this guilt is fueling the Reverse Flash in his attempt to take over Wells's body. It's... all pretty stupid, actually, which is consistent for the output of the show at this point.
  • Finally, in Coronavirus news, it is more and more likely that all the CW shows, which are currently on production hiatus, receive shortened seasons this year. Whether that means the rest of the planned episodes will air next year as the start of the next seasons, or if they'll get mini-seasons sometime early in the Summer before the Fall season premieres, or maybe if production will briefly pick back up to do quickly season finales to air right at the end of this season... who knows. Nothing is official, in part because no one knows yet how long this all will play out.